Creating pollinator gardens one step at a time

Published 12:03 pm Sunday, April 24, 2022

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching the Green Team volunteers bustling about the Arboretum’s pollinator garden with a good deal of awe as they worked on getting this area in shape with weeding and mulching, along with other spring-cleaning tasks, as well as installing some new plants that have been patiently waiting in the greenhouse, eyeing their new home.  The Green Team is composed primarily of Pearl River County Master Gardeners, without whom this area of raised display garden beds would never be in the great shape they are now, awaiting to impress visitors to our public garden.

The pollinator garden is in the process of a major renovation, with many of the improvements intended to increase its effectiveness in educating the public about dependable, low-maintenance plants for the home landscape that will provide habitat for pollinators. Signage will be added that focuses on the value of pollinators and host plants for Mississippi butterflies.  This project is being funded through a grant from the Coast Electric Power Association, supported by the cooperative’s members and their Community Trust, in partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Plant identification signs will also be installed into the pollinator garden. Visitors will be able to snap a photo of a sign next to the plants they are interested in. Species that have been growing and prospering in the garden for several years will “earn the right” to have a permanent metal sign that will include a QR code linking to a website with detailed information on the plant and its cultural requirements.

Some of the plants which have returned year after year in the garden or are continually re-planted from seed or cuttings include Stokes aster, Gaura, blue star (Amsonia), Monarda, fire bush, swamp milkweed, indigo bush (Baptisia), African blue basil, scarlet sage, coastal Coreopsis, and several species of Salvia. Plants that have been recently installed or have not yet proven their durability will be identified with laminated signs.  Signs will be added to the garden that inform visitors about the value of pollinators as well as the various types of Mississippi butterflies and their host plants.

Want to design your own garden? Attend the Smart Landscapes program on Designing Pollinator Gardens on Saturday, May 7, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Spend more time appreciating your garden, and not laboring in it with Arboretum Director Pat Drackett.

Join us for a Forest Botany Field Walk on Saturday, April 30, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. with MSU Extension Professor Emeritus Dr. Glenn Hughes. You will learn how to identify woody forest species and tips for using them in your own home landscape.  Registration is required, and the cost is $4 for members and $6 for non-members. On April 30 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., attend a Botanical Illustration Workshop with Penny Wallace Crawford. Prior painting experience is not needed to participate in this workshop! After a short introduction, the group will take a short walk through the Arboretum exhibits to gather plant materials. Penny will give a botanical watercolor demonstration and then provide guidance as you draw and then paint the plants you arrange. Recommended to bring: Pruners or scissors (a limited supply will be available), long pants/long sleeves, hat and sunglasses, bug repellent and sunscreen, closed-toed walking shoes, snacks, water bottle (water cooler available to refilling bottles). All workshop materials are provided. Reservations required. Program cost is $15 for Arboretum members and $20 for non-members.

Penny’s botanical illustrations will be on display in the Arboretum gallery Saturday, April 30 through Sunday, May 15. Drawing, and an interest in nature, have always been a part of her life. Time spent in her garden, boating along area rivers, walking, and dirt biking are her sources of inspiration, and her techniques include watercolor, pastels, acrylic, charcoal, and pen and ink. Penny’s botanical paintings of plant materials are drawn from live specimens in pencil, then pen and ink, and painted in vibrant watercolor. Her training as a Master Flower Show Judge influences her arranging and staging of plant material and is an important factor in her botanical paintings.

Registration required. Members free; $5 for non-members. On May 7 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., a Wild Foraging Field Walk will be held. Join Betty Sue O’Brian, Traditional Naturopath, Iridologist, and Herbalist, and Lynda O’Brian Baker, Herbalist and Chemist, who have been studying and using local plants for more than 25 years. Registration required. Cost is $3 for members and $7 for non-members.  On the evening of May 7, come to our popular Open Mic Night on the Pinecote Pavilion from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Call to reserve your 15-minute time slot or reserve a place in the audience to enjoy this evening featuring local musicians.

Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs. For more information, see our website at and our Facebook page. The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4. We’ree open 9 AM to 4:30 PM, Wednesday through Sunday.